The rest of the 100 (in alphabetical order): Harshul Sanghi, American Express
US-based credit card company American Express (Amex) made a big splash in corporate venturing when it hired Harshul Sanghi, formerly head of Motorola Mobility’s corporate venturing unit.
It is a splash that continues to ripple outwards as Sanghi, managing partner at Amex Ventures since August 2011, and his team have made investments in more than 30 companies worldwide.
Last year, Amex Ventures invested in nine new companies, including three international investments – Simplee, Tapzo and IndiaLends. Others were Boxed, Mezi, Tradeshift, Signifyd, Plaid and InAuth. American Express acquired mobile device authentication company InAuth in December – the first such purchase of a portfolio company – to complement its fraud prevention and security capabilities. Deals this year include anti-fraud provider Signifyd, which closed a $56m series C round this month.
Amex Ventures invests in startups that can foster and enhance innovation across American Express, so it is no surprise that some could be acquisition targets. But probably more important to the companies are the partnerships between these startups and Amex’s business units. The company said two-thirds of its portfolio companies has such commercial partnerships.
Last year, American Express teamed up with Boxed to integrate Amex Express Checkout and provide perks for card members. Amex partnered Tradeshift in its launch of Tradeshift Go, a chat interface for approving and facilitating employee purchases, which integrates Amex’s vPayment for transactions.
Accertify, an American Express subsidiary, integrated Signifyd’s service into its fraud-management platform for enhanced fraud screening. Accertify merchants who use the service will qualify for Signifyd’s fraud-free guarantee.
And Amex has worked with portfolio company Mezi to pilot white-label digital concierge application AskAmex, which helps users find and book travel, dining and other things from an iPhone.
Ken Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express, added: “At American Express, reinvention is in our DNA. We have never focused in a linear way. We have always been focused on challenging the status quo. However, we cannot innovate fast enough on our own, and that is why partnerships are becoming absolutely essential. The Amex Ventures team highlights how American Express is focused on being a fantastic partner for growth and innovation.”
Sanghi, who leads a team including partner Rohit Bodas, a GCV Rising Star 2016, said more was planned this year. “Our mission is to facilitate and build lasting connections between American Express and the startup community in order to drive growth for all parties. Our goal is to drive American Express towards cutting-edge innovation through partnerships with startups. We will also continue to use American Express’s global scale to support international entrepreneurs and innovation around the world.”
Sanghi is a veteran venture capitalist with more than 25 years of operating experience and a proven track record in delivering financial returns and strategic value. For his 2014 Powerlist award, Sanghi said he helped establish Motorola Ventures, after the phone equipment provider’s purchase of his previous employer, Ucentric Systems, as the “go-to standard for corporate venturing”.
Motorola Ventures was subsequently divided into Motorola Mobility Ventures and Motorola Solutions Ventures, mirroring the parent company’s split, with Sanghi becoming head of Motorola Mobility Ventures but leaving before search engine Google’s purchase of the parent business in 2014.
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